A fuel cell generates electricity by a chemical reaction. Every fuel cell has two electrodes, positive and negative, called ‘œanode’ and ‘œcathode’ respectively. The reaction producing electricity occurs at the electrodes.
Fact 1. The main functionality of a fuel cell is to produce an electric current external to the cell for powering an electric motor or lighting a bulb. The current returns to the fuel cell completing the electrical circuit.
Fact 2. Â There are different kinds of fuel cells. Generally, hydrogen atoms enter through the anode where a chemical reaction strips them of their electrons. The hydrogen atoms are ionized and have a positive charge. The negatively charged electrons provide the current through wires. For alternating current (AC), the direct current (DC) output of the fuel has to be routed through a converter called an inverter.
Fact 3. The ‘œFuel Cell Today Industry Review 2012’ has reported a 39 percent increase in shipments compared to 2010.
Fact 4. Â The 2012 Review forecasted triple annual shipments compared to 2011 to reach over 78,000 a year led by incresed sales for consumer electronic devices.
Fact 5. Â The term ‘œcombined heat and power’ (CHP) is used when electricity and heat are produced from a single source of fuel such as natural gas. On a smaller scale, this is known as micro-CHP and can replace grid electricity in residential homes.
Fact 6. Historically, Humphrey Davy, Christian Freidrich Schonbein, and William Grove were responsible for inventing the fuel cell in the 19th century.
Fact 7. NASA, in the late 1950s, began developing fuel cell generators for manned space missions. William Thomas Grub at General Electric was credited with the invention of the PEMFC unit. This was further improved by Leonard Niedrach and known as the Grubb-Niedrach fuel cell which was used in the Gemini space program in the mid-1960s.
Fact 8. Â General Motors had earlier experimented with its hydrogen cell powered Electrovan fitted with a Union Carbide fuel cell. This marked one of the earliest road-going fuel cell electric vehicles.
Fact 9. Fuel cells became commercialized in 2007, when they were used in leisure applications such as boats and camper vans, portable sector toys, and educational kits.
Fact 10. The global economic recession of the late 2000s had an adverse impact on cell companies due to limited credit availability and restrictions in government funding as well as profitability concerns. Post-recession, there has been government support due to the immense potential in this sector.